CHARLOTTE – County Commissioner Bill James has described ongoing talks of renovating the American Legion Memorial Stadium as a zombie that just won’t die. After years of running and hiding, county leadership appears to be taking decisive action to shoot that zombie in the head.
The county has flirted in the past with the idea of partnering with the City of Charlotte and Charlotte Independence professional soccer team to split the costs. But commissioners decided Dec. 19 to invest about $32 million in renovations so that it doesn’t have to share ownership of the recreational amenity.
“After evaluating what we thought was in the best interests of the county, we really believe that it’s our asset,” County Manager Dena Diorio said. “We should control our asset.”
Diorio recommended commissioners not negotiate away their rights to the stadium to additional funding partners. The county could still lease the stadium to the Independence or anyone else.
Republican commissioners Jim Puckett and Matthew Ridenhour preferred continued negotiations with the city and Independence to reduce the cost; however, Diorio said the Independence preferred to make lease payments instead of upfront cash.
The county introduced a base package that would cost about $21.3 million. Some $14.4 million of that would include new construction, including seating, press box, stage/field cover and veterans memorial.
The county offered an $10.5 million alternate add-on that would include seating, concession area and speed table with flashers on Charlottetowne Avenue.
Renovations would help expand the field perimeter to allow for soccer, football, field hockey, lacrosse and rugby, according to parks and recreation director Lee Jones. He said the venue could field as many as 120 sports events a year, in addition to concerts and community events.
Some commissioners weren’t so keen on parts of the concept. Ridenhour didn’t like the idea of people walking or potentially spitting on military medallions etched into concrete.
The county plans on developing more specific project plans and engaging with the community.